Entergy removing old poles to allow for Northpark Expansion.

Northpark Expansion Obstacles Finally Being Addressed

6/21/24 – Entergy has removed some – but not all – blockages to the Northpark expansion project related to its equipment. The project is designed to build an all-weather evacuation route for 78,000 Kingwood residents.

Entergy removed several of its poles that blocked expansion of the roadway earlier this week.

The company is also committing to dates for the removal of other poles that remain in the way of construction.

The Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ-10 first notified Entergy that it would have to move its equipment in 2020. On February 6th this year, the City of Houston finally set a firm deadline. It gave Entergy 30 days to move its equipment. That deadline was obviously missed.

Entergy says it has been working diligently to help Northpark expansion move forward. As we move into what is expected to be a very busy hurricane season, here’s where the TIRZ and Entergy say things stand and what I have been able to verify photographically.

Some Poles Already Removed Earlier This Week

Entergy removed several poles that blocked construction progress on Tuesday, June 18. They were located near Dunkin’ Donuts and Public Storage.

Note old pole on ground in front of Public Storage (out of frame to right).

Primoris, an Entergy contractor, took down that and several other poles that day.

More Entergy poles being removed by Primoris crew in front of Dunkin’ Donuts

Two other groups of poles continue to block construction, however. Here’s what Entergy is doing to address those.

Blockage #1: Poles West of Car Wash

The first blockage is a group of three poles immediately west of the Quick Quack Car Wash where new westbound turn lanes will begin. This group of poles still holds a Comcast cable. See below.

Looking W. Three short poles on left between Duncan Donuts and Quick Quack Carwash have yet to be moved.

Comcast has committed to burying this cable next week. Then Primoris can remove the poles for Entergy.

Blockage #2: Poles near Loop 494

The second group also has three poles – at Loop 494 and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. However, these three poles have two separate issues with which Entergy must contend.

  • They supply redundant power to the businesses along Northpark.
  • An Internet provider, Brightspeed, also has a line mounted on two of the three poles. (See #2 and #3 below.)
Entergy Delay Forces Change to Northpark Expansion Plan…Again
Looking W from over Northpark across 494. Three more Entergy power poles blocking Northpark Drive expansion.

To get these three poles out of the way of Northpark expansion, Entergy has three options:

  • Move them north (right in photo above)
  • Bore under the roadway and tracks
  • A combination of the above.

According to Brian Garcia, Entergy’s project manager, his company has chosen a combination of the two approaches. It will move the overhead lines north temporarily while it works out permits and easements with TXDoT and Union Pacific.

Once Entergy has secured permissions needed, it will then bury the lines, a solution that is more reliable. It is also more expensive because two moves are involved rather than one. But it should let construction move forward faster.

Entergy has committed to delivering a plan to temporarily relocate Pole #1 (in the photo above) by end of day today.

Weather permitting, Entergy also plans to actually relocate its wires on Poles #2 and #3 by 6/28/24 – next Friday. Entergy would then top its old poles. That would let BrightSpeed remove its cable. And then Primoris could remove the old poles.

Union Pacific Sets Meeting on Crossing Signals

Meanwhile, Union Pacific (UP) has set a meeting for July 9 to talk about relocating its crossing signals. It’s a firm deadline, according to De Leon, the TIRZ’s project manager for Northpark Expansion.

Unexpected delays by any party in this ballet of corporate behemoths could create a domino effect that could push the Northpark project back into next year. Or even force cancellation.

Blockage #3: Transformer At Exxon

Meanwhile, at the Exxon Station near US59, Entergy also has a transformer that must be moved farther back from the roadway. See red circle below. The distance has to do, in part, with line-of-sight issues for motorists. Its height means that it could block the view of motorists entering or leaving the roadway.

Entergy transformer at US59 (top) and Northpark (right) circled in red.

But working around the transformer presents serious construction problems. The wires leading to/from it are not up to code, according to De Leon.

He says that the City building code calls for underground wiring to be encased in steel. But the wiring in this area is not. That could jeopardize the safety of heavy equipment operators working to expand Northpark in this area.

Garcia disagrees. He says all of their equipment and lines meet or exceed all applicable building codes.

Several weeks ago, a contractor for the TIRZ did some exploratory hydro-excavation as part of its due diligence for the roadway expansion project. The contractor found Entergy wires that were exposed, not encased like De Leon says they should have been.

Wiring near Entergy transformer exposed during exploratory hydro-excavation process.

De Leon shared this photo in the June TIRZ board meeting. He says it creates a major safety issue for construction workers near the transformer. According to him, the workers could be electrocuted if, for instance, the bucket of an excavator accidentally cut one of the wires.

Garcia says Entergy crews will move the transformer. But De Leon and his contractors are concerned about what could happen if they encounter similar wires as they work in the same general area.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/21/2024

2488 Days since Hurricane Harvey